Nike/LM HS Midwest Report: Early Challenges Key
The New Trier (Ill.) boys' lacrosse team took on a different kind of intensity upon arrival in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The Trevians' first two games of the season would be fun for any team. The defending state champions scored 38 goals in routs of Glenbrook South and Deerfield. Against the Titans, Ben Connelly and Will Rossi had four goals apiece, and the offense moved freely.
Brother Rice, a longtime Michigan powerhouse, was a different animal. The two teams grinded their scrimmage out and were tied at 4 late. Ultimately, the Warriors emerged on top, 6-4.
"I don't think the effort was there," coach Tom Herrala said. "I think the kids were trying hard, but they just didn't know, just because of new guys playing on the field, what needs to be done because we haven't been challenged that much this year."
That distinction between trying hard and effort is critical.
Nike/LM Midwest Boys' Top 10
1. Culver Military (Ind.), 4-3
Loyola Academy (Ill.) is far from competing against the best of the East, after losing its opener, 18-0, to Calvert Hall (Md.); however, the Ramblers have shown early on they are above the vast majority of their state. They've won five straight by a combined 72-15 margin.
Culver Military (Ind.) took a tumble or two on its East Coast trip, losing by a single goal to Episcopal Academy (Pa.) and Gonzaga (D.C.), and absorbing a blowout from McDonogh (Md.). This shouldn't turn into an indictment of the Eagles, though, as they played five games in six days, it was early in their season, and they were a few goals from emerging 4-1. Still, 2-3 doesn't quite make a deafening statement in favor of Midwest lacrosse.
That's why Herrala schedules the type of grueling road trip he did – not only against Brother Rice, but also against Detroit Country Day and Cranbrook. Combined, the three Michigan squads went 48-19 last year.
It's one thing to practice hard when you're blowing all of your competition out of the water. It's another to practice hard after a tough loss. Herrala said the Trevians' intensity level in practice was up "tenfold" the day after losing to Brother Rice.
"They responded well," Herrala said.
The challenges will keep rolling in for New Trier. Prior Lake (Minn.) visits the cozy Chicagoland suburb on April 11. Glenbrook North (Ill.), currently 4-1, visits three days later, and rival Loyola Academy (Ill.) also remains on the horizon.
Herrala expects a good challenge from Libertyville (Ill.) in May, as well. Indiana powers Culver Military and Carmel loom at season's end.
"We play one of the toughest schedules we can play," Herrala said.
That will come in handy if it comes down to yet another state title match against the Ramblers.
"I'm assuming Loyola will be there in the end, because they always are," Herrala said.
Midwest Boys' Player of the Week
Sean Murphy, Olentangy Liberty (Ohio)
Murphy is a big reason why the Patriots are off to a 3-0 start. The senior goalie recorded seven saves in a 5-3 victory over rival Olentangy (Ohio), then posted 19 saves in a pair of wins at the 2015 Andy Eser Memorial Lacrosse Tournament.
"The numbers don't tell the whole story," coach Jason Godwin said.
"It's when they occur. It's how they occur. When they are only getting four good shots in a quarter and he stops all four of them, it makes a big difference."
Sean Murphy has come up big in Olentangy Liberty's 3-0 start, including two wins against Maryland teams at the Andy Eser Tournament. (Courtesy Photo)
Murphy helped Olentangy Liberty stake out to a 5-1 lead against Archbishop Spalding (Md.) in the first game of the tournament, and against DeMatha (Md.), the Patriots gave up a single goal in the second half.
"Every opportunity that they had, he stuffed them," Godwin said.
In his third year in net, Murphy is already the program's career saves leader. He's been stacking them up since his sophomore year, when an ineligibility issue thrust him in front of the cage.
Also notable: Chris David (Evanston, Ill.), Ethan Hennessy (Grand Haven, Mich.), Nick Mulcahy (Grand Haven, Mich.)
Midwest Boys' Games to Watch
University of Detroit Jesuit (Mich.) at Brother Rice (Mich.), March 30
The Cubs started 1-13 last season, but they're 7-1 since. The only team to beat them in that stretch? Brother Rice. The Warriors (1-0) aren't known to lose many in-state games.
MICDS (Mo.) at DeSmet Jesuit (Mo.), April 2
The Rams lost all three games on their East Coast trip – but looked good doing it, as they challenged undefeated St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.) in a 7-3 loss. Now, the Rams return to The Show-Me State, where they've already taken it to St. Louis University High School. DeSmet Jesuit has been solid as well, including a rout of Christian Brothers (Mo.), but the Spartans now look for an upset.
Nike/LM Midwest Girls' Top 10
Girls' Player of the Week
Alex Vander Molen, Rockford (Mich.)
Vander Molen, who also has a younger sister on the team, keeps rolling for the undefeated Rams. She scored four goals as Rockford made quick work of a usually competitive Caledonia (Mich.) team last week. Three days later, on Saturday, she recorded a hat trick and six draw controls in a blowout of Carmel (Ind.), and she added two goals and three draw controls that same day against Brebeuf Jesuit Prep (Ind.). The Ohio State commit has been on a tear all season, starting with her six-point performance in the Rams' season opener.
All told, Vander Molen has 13 goals in four games, is second on the Rams with 15 draw controls and has seven of the team's 20 assists. She's 5-of-7 on free-position shots and 26 of her 27 shots overall have been on goal.
"She's been playing some great team ball," coach Mike Emery said. "She's really become the quarterback and leader of our team, at least in transition and offense."
Also notable: MeKenzie Vander Molen (Rockford, Mich.), Brooklyn Neuman, Rockford (Mich.), Ali Mazzola (Chagrin Falls, Ohio)
1. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 5-0
2. New Trier (Ill.), 3-0
3. East Grand Rapids (Mich.), 3-0
4. Rockford (Mich.), 4-0
5. Sycamore (Ohio), 0-0
6. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 1-2
7. Hinsdale Central (Ill.), 1-2
8. Medina (Ohio), 0-1
9. Blake (Minn.), 0-0
10. MICDS (Mo.), 1-0
You can't get much hotter than Loyola Academy (Ill.), which has raced to a 5-0 start behind a series of romps and routs. The Ramblers outscored their first five opponents, 88-5, including three shutouts and at least 17 goals in every game. Two of those wins came against Lake Forest (Ill.) and Montini Catholic (Ill.), usually two of their top challengers in the Land of Lincoln.
Ohio's top teams haven't gotten off to the best of starts. Medina, last year's state finalist, fell to frequent Division II Final Four finisher Chagrin Falls (Ohio), 17-16. Upper Arlington dropped a pair to two of the top teams in Georgia. The Golden Bears' offense is alive and well, however, with nine-plus goals in all three contests this season.
Girls' Midwest Games to Watch
Hinsdale Central (Ill.) at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.), March 31
The Red Devils gave themselves a doozy of an East Coast trip, and it doesn't get any easier as they head out to face the undefeated Saints. It will be interesting to see how one of Illinois' best teams fares against the Saints, who have spent much of this season rolling through California competition.
Cleveland Heights (Ohio) at California High School, April 3
The Tigers have endured a couple of losing seasons and are a long way from their last state title. Last year, it took them 12 games to record their first win. So, winning their opener this year meant a lot – and beating a respectable Golden State team would do even more for their confidence.
Girls' Midwest Notebook
The Chagrin Falls (Ohio) girls deserve credit for a 17-16 win at a Medina (Ohio) squad that was coming off an appearance in last year's state title game.
The Tigers led 11-4 at halftime.
"We came ready to play," coach KC White said.
Of course, the Battling Bees did justice to their name and fought back, tying the score at 16 with about 25 seconds remaining.
That's when Ali Mazzola struck with an eight-meter shot with four seconds to go to propel Chagrin Falls to the upset.
Mazzola had a great game, but the Tigers are all about spreading the wealth. Eight different players scored in their win over Medina. Six different players scored in a win over Shaker Heights (Ohio).
"It's a lot easier to shut down one player, but it's very hard to shut down 11 or 12 players," White said. "Sometimes creating space is just as important as the player who has the ball on her stick. It takes an entire team to score a goal, and it takes an entire team to stop a goal. That's been our mentality, and so far, it's worked for us."
The Tigers are far from done. This is a team with big dreams of winning their first state title. They came two goals short of the Division II title game last year.
"While we were excited about our victory over Medina, because they're such a great program, we're just not satisfied," White said.
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Michigan could be headed toward the ultimate girls' lacrosse showdown on April 20, when Rockford hosts East Grand Rapids. The Rams have won nine straight going back to last year, and every single victory has been a blowout. They even routed Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich.), a 15-6 team last year. It's the same story with the Pioneers, who have won 15 straight. They downed each of their three opponents this year by double-digit margins. They've also won seven straight over the Rams.
In a battle of state champions – Division I and Division II – can Rockford rally?
"We have not really done our job the last few years in that rivalry," Emery said. "They've handed it to us pretty good. It's really the two premier programs right now in the state of Michigan. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them and their program."
"Our entire conference is pretty tough," Emery added. "We really take all of the conference teams very seriously, but East Grand Rapids is a special place for us."
Midwest Boys' Notebook
Speaking of hot starts, the Evanston Township (Ill.) boys have made a habit of them recently. The Wildkits followed last year's 8-1 start by winning their first three this year. Evanston should be able to pick up a fourth straight against Maine South (Ill.) and possibly a fifth against O'Fallon Township (Ill.). How can the Wildkits distinguish this season from last? Well, their upcoming five-game trip offers plenty of opportunities. Beating either DeSmet Jesuit (Mo.) or Loyola Academy (Ill.) on the road would send a huge message. Thus far, the Wildkits have received big contributions from Jack and Nick Lydon. Nick leads the team with 21 groundballs. Jack has 11, along with 10 caused turnovers. Meanwhile, the scoring has been spread around, with four different players scoring five-plus goals.
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It seems strange to call losing a positive, but when the third- or fourth-best team in Illinois plays Florida's top teams well, that's a good sign. The Lake Forest (Ill.) boys competed well in a high-scoring contest against undefeated St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) and fell to Gulliver (Fla.) by a slim margin. The Scouts even beat a strong Columbus Catholic (Fla.) club. Particularly given that this came toward the beginning of Lake Forest's season, and the heart of the Sunshine State lacrosse season, the Scouts fared well.
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Former Western Reserve (Ohio) goalie Kyle Bernlohr is making an impact in the Big Ten, sharing the conference's Specialist of the Week award Monday. He earned it by limiting Robert Morris and Michigan to eight goals – with 11 saves – in a pair of Maryland wins.
Nike/LM Midwest Region Report Archive
- March 24: Excellence Takes Work
- March 17: Mason's Familiar Face on New Sideline
- February 25: Preseason Top 10 and Players of the Year
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